World Autism Awareness Week 2021

To mark World Autism Awareness Week 2021 we’re highlighting the expertise of our Demelza nurses which is vital when caring for children with autism and learning disabilities.

Learning Disability Nurses play an essential role in ensuring that children with autism and learning disabilities have the same access to health services as all other children and being an advocate for their needs during their stay.

Liz is a Senior Registered Nurse and a qualified Learning Disability Nurse based in Sittingbourne. Read more about the prep work the team do to ensure children with autism have the best possible experience while staying at the hospice.

Liz says: “My aim is to ensure that all children that meet our criteria are offered our services. That hopefully includes children who may otherwise have not been able to access our service due to autism or other related conditions or because of additional learning disabilities. As a Learning Disability Nurse, I am able to advocate for their rights to receive a high standard of care.

Prior to a child accessing Demelza’s services, a thorough assessment is carried out to ensure that the whole team is aware of the child's needs. This includes aspects such as their communication methods and tools, positive behaviour plans, and any adjustments needed to ensure they enjoy their stay at Demelza. We contact schools, social workers, parents and complete our own assessments to make sure we have everything we need to make the most of the child’s stay.

“Following the initial assessment, it’s important to recognise that children who have autism may need adjustments to the environment at Demelza. Children can struggle with too much stimulation in the hospice and an overwhelming amount of activities and choices to make. We always make sure that activities are planned and structured for them in advance.

“Each child comes to Demelza with their own individual personality and behaviours. The key priority is to ensure that the child, and other resident children, are kept safe and that their needs are met during their stay.” 

When it comes to caring for a child, Demelza takes careful consideration in matching the right member of staff to the child. It’s important to look at who has previous experience of working with a child with autism or who shows the necessary skills and training requirements to work with autistic children. Currently, there is training in place called Team Teach; this training highlights the need for staff to recognise the child's anxieties and things that may trigger negative responses. It also teaches the staff to regulate their own behaviour and responses to that child to ensure they remain calm and provide clear communication and recognise early signs that the child is becoming agitated or anxious.

Liz explains that she enjoys delivering training for Team Teach: “I deliver Team Teach training to all three Demelza sites and thoroughly enjoy helping staff, who have generally come from very clinical backgrounds, gain the necessary skills and knowledge to feel confident working with the children who have the additional complications of limited communication or other factors that may make it difficult to treat their medical conditions.

“My experience as a Learning Disability Nurse at Demelza is that I can provide the same clinical care as the Paediatric Nurses. But my skills lie in
 creating the conditions where all children can feel comfortable with how they are treated and engaged. This has been embraced at Demelza and I feel that my skills and knowledge are recognised and made use of to benefit every child with autism or learning disabilities who spends time at Demelza.”